1. The appellant has been convicted of kidnapping a girl of about 15 years of age from the lawful guardianship of her father. The girl was married and, after living for a time with her husband in his village, returned to her father's house about a year before the alleged offence. The accused is charged with taking her from that place about the 20th of August last. The girl herself, as defence first witness, alleges that she was driven out from her father's house sometime before the complaint because her conduct in going about in the village, as she says, had displeased her father and others and that she returned, to her village as she heard that she was charged with the theft of some of her father's jewels and was afraid of arrest. Her story that she was driven out by her father is supported by four defence witnesses, inhabitants of her village, against whom there is nothing much to be said.
2. The Sessions Judge rejects all this defence evidence apparently because he disbelieves the defence 6th witness who, he thinks, is conducting the defence, and because it in some respects conflicts with the evidence of Prosecution 1st witness and Prosecution 2nd witness. We concur with the estimate of the evidence of defence 6th witness, hut we do not think that on that account the evidence of other witnesses is to be rejected, and we do not find any sufficient reason to prefer the evidence of Prosecution 1st witness and Prosecution 2nd witness to that of the defence witnesses where they differ. Prosecution 1st witness is the father of the girl and Prosecution 2nd witness is her brother: after her return from her husband's house, the father and son separated, and the latter has not been on speaking terms with his sister. The accused, too, about that time complained against him, (Prosecution 2nd witness), that he was threatening to beat him: Prosecution 1st witness admits that his daughter was in the habit of going to neighbouring villages without informing him of her departure. All these circumstances indicate that there was trouble in the family with the conduct of the girl and probably in connection with the accused, and so lend support to the evidence of the defence witnesses. Then we find that the Prosecution 1st witness delayed for more than a week after the alleged departure of the girl with the accused before he made his complaint to the Village Munsif. He says he was urged by his wife to seek for his daughter but delayed, fearing excommunication; and that it was the loss of some jewels taken by the girl which finally induced him to complain. Whatever truth there may be in that, the Prosecution 1st witness's indifference in the matter indicates an improbability that the girl had been living quietly as a member of his family, as he alleges, until the 20th of August, and suggests rather that he was pushed into complaining against the accused by his wife and perhaps by his son, who has attested the complaint Exhibit A to the Village Munsif, and who in Exhibit B complains of the indifference of the Police.
3. The prosecution evidence is to the effect that some days before the complaint was made, the accused and the girl were seen together in two places some miles from their village. This may or may not be true, but it does not suffice to establish the offence, if we accept, as we think we must, the evidence that the Prosecution 1st witness had not long before driven the girl from his house. In that case, the prosecution evidence only shows that she had after that taken up with the accused, who, as we have noted, was perhaps not unconnected with the earlier trouble between her and her father; and does not, in the circumstances of the case, show that she was taken by the accused from the keeping of her father. She was not at that time in his keeping, as he had driven her from his house, and it is not suggested that she was in the keeping of her husband.
4. We must, in these circumstances, set aside the conviction and acquit the appellant and discharge his bail.